Russia has confirmed Iranian reports that Moscow has removed its military aircraft from Iran’s Hamadan airbase for the time being.
“The Russian aircraft which flew missions from the Iranian Hamadan Airbase against terrorist targets in Syria have successfully completed [their tasks]. The warplanes are currently back in the Russian Federation,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Monday.
Last week, U.S. officials confirmed the Russian aircraft presence, saying satellite imagery showed four Russian Su-34 fighter jets parked at Nojeh air base in western Iran.
In addition to the Su-34 aircraft, long-range Tu-22 bombers launched a new air offensive with bombing runs from Nojeh before flying back to a Russian base, according to LA Times.
As per an agreement to “deconflict” flights over Syria, Russian officials did notify the U.S. military before conducting operations in Syria from Iran. Russian and Iranian officials stated Iran airbases allow Russian aircraft to carry less fuel and more munitions while striking Syrian rebel forces.
While the decision to use Iranian airbases does have some tactical impact, experts believe the decision is more symbolic of Russia’s military intent.
“This move is a signal not only to the U.S. and NATO, but also to Saudi Arabia and the gulf states and other Sunni countries,” said James Stavridis, a former NATO supreme commander who is dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. “Russia is here to stay.”
“Moscow sees no obstacles to the further use of Iranian infrastructure, including the air base in Hamadan, for strikes against terrorists in Syria,” said the Russian ambassador to Tehran, Levan Djagaryan, to Interfax on Monday. “The Russian aerospace forces may resume operations from Iranian base Hamadan when it is expedient, and by the decision of leaders of Russian and Iran.”
The White House has opposed the strengthening military relationship between Iran and Russian, citing it as a direct violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929.
The resolution, which was adopted in 2010, lists sanctions to prevent “the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to Iran, from or through their territories or by their nationals or individuals subject to their jurisdiction, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in their territories, of any battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems…”
Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there were no grounds to suggest Russia’s decision to fly Syria bombing missions out of Iran violated U.N. Security Council resolution 2231. He claimed the aircraft were acting as apart of the Kremlin’s anti-terrorist operation, which isn’t a transfer of military equipment.
Lavrov said Russian aircraft had been flying out of Iran as a part of the Kremlin’s anti-terrorist operation. No aircraft or supplies had been transferred to Tehran, he said.
On Sunday evening, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossien Dehghan said Iran’s Ministry of Defense intends to continue negotiations with Russia on the purchase of Sukhoi aircraft.
The decision to pursue the purchase of the aircraft follows a contract with Russia for S-300 anti-aircraft missile defense systems, which is in violation of UN sanctions. The contract, which was originally agreed upon in 2007, was abandoned in 2010 after the UN resolution but reinstated by Putin in April of 2015.
“We don’t need other long-range air defense systems, we no longer need to purchase them,” said Dehghan. “We need to strengthen our Air Force.”
In October 2015, Iran violated the resolution when it test-launched a medium-range missile, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
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